Campus Life

KAGS-TV Feature On Alamo Cannon Conservation At Texas A&M Earns Regional Emmy

Jay O’Brien earned a Regional Emmy Award in the Texas Heritage category from the Lone Star chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Elena Watts, Texas A&M University Division of Marketing & Communications December 11, 2018

In a KAGS-TV news feature about conservation of cannons from the Alamo in San Antonio by Texas A&M University, Jim Jobling, the project manager at the Texas A&M Conservation Research Lab (CRL), passionately describes the intangible benefits of conservation work.

“We looked down the barrel, and there was a shot at the aft end of the barrel … and I said, ‘Think about what you are holding,’” Jobling said. “Who handled that last? 1836, February. Somebody loaded the gun. They never fired it. It was the last shot.”

That chord, among others, resonated with the Lone Star chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and Jay O’Brien, anchor for KAGS-TV in the Brazos Valley, earned a Regional Emmy Award in the Texas Heritage category. His four-minute feature, Alamo Cannon, aired Feb. 9, 2018.

“Everyone who watched this story fell in love with Jim,” O’Brien said. “He has an accent and an air about him.”

In this particularly stirring moment in the feature, Jobling set the scene by explaining that one of his students had found a surprise, a cannonball, as she removed the last bits of dirt, rock and rubble from one of the cannon barrels.

When cannons were common weapons of warfare, soldiers of the prevailing side decommissioned them before moving to the next battle because, weighing hundreds of pounds, they were too cumbersome to take along. Among other tactics, the soldiers filled the barrels with rocks to prevent the enemy from using them again.

“Unfortunately, nowadays, there’s so much negative news,” Jobling said. “What is there to give us faith? To give us something to hold onto? To enjoy and inspire us?”

The Alamo still stands in downtown San Antonio symbolizing the spirit and courage of the Texan soldiers who, no matter the consequences, stood up for their beliefs during the Texas Revolution to win independence from Mexico, Jobling said.

“The Alamo means something to all Texans, so the conservation of the cannons generates a lot of interest and excitement across the state,” Jobling said. “They’re giving Texas A&M an opportunity to be part of history … an opportunity to clean part of our past.”

O’Brien wrote his script around a moment he captured when representatives from the Alamo retrieved the two conserved cannons from the CRL and delivered two more for conservation. Unbeknownst to Jobling, O’Brien had his camera rolling behind him as he inspected the latest cannon arrivals.

“I got him talking about the cannon to himself … not speaking to anyone, and that to me was indicative of the culture at Texas A&M and how passionate they are about what they do,” O’Brien said. “That it took no impetus, and he instantly jumped in and started to work … I thought it was beautiful, so that was the favorite moment I captured.”

O’Brien topped two other regional Emmy nominees: Kyle Banowsky, producer of “Game of Gobblers” for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and Karen Kocher producer of “The Wildlands” for Watershed Productions.

“This award is significant for Jay, our station, and for TEGNA in continuing to win awards at the corporate level,” Roby Somerford, KAGS-TV station manager, said. “It shows the quality and caliber of our news people and the quality of the content were putting out, and it’s nice to be recognized.”

O’Brien has worked for the NBC-affiliated television station for approximately 18 months, and the Emmy is the first for him and the station. He described the allure of historical conservation as more than “the facts or figures or dates.”

“It’s what you can touch,” he said in a voice-over during the feature. “It’s the goosebumps you get.”

About the CRL

The Conservation Research Laboratory (CRL) at Texas A&M University is one of the oldest continuously operated conservation laboratories that deals primarily with archaeological material from shipwrecks and other underwater sites. Operating under the Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation, the CRL plays an important role in the Nautical Archaeology Program.

The CRL consists of three laboratories that work on archaeological projects year-round. One laboratory teaches conservation classes and conducts conservation of small inorganic and organic artifacts. The second handles large multi-year projects with massive iron artifacts, including cannons and anchors. The third provides detailed analytical data required by archaeologists.

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